New Earthquake Legislation

4th July 2017

New legislation requiring the identification and strengthening of earthquake-prone buildings (EPBs) has taken effect this week. This affects the whole country, not just EQ hot spots. Here are some key points:

  • Under the new system, territorial authorities (councils) are responsible for identifying potential EPBs and notifying building owners who must then engage an engineer to undertake an assessment.
  • The country has been divided into areas of high, medium and low seismic risk. Buildings in areas of low seismic risk (such as Auckland) must be assessed in the same way, but timeframes in which the assessment and strengthening processes must occur are longer.
  • Even in areas of low seismic risk, unreinforced masonry buildings and buildings constructed pre-1976 that are either at least 3 storeys or greater than 12 meters in height are likely to be identified as potentially EQ prone and therefore require an engineering assessment (which must be arranged and paid for by the building owner). There are a few exclusions to this.
  • In medium and high risk areas, in addition to the above, pre-1935 buildings of 2 or more storeys are also likely to be considered potentially earthquake prone. There are a few exclusions to this.
  • Engineering assessments must now follow a prescribed methodology and content.
  • The maximum timeframe for strengthening has been reduced from 20 years to 15 years.
  • There is a new category of "priority buildings" which must be strengthened or removed in half the time of other earthquake prone buildings.
  • A national register of EPBs will be available online.
  • The requirements for EPB notices have changed (so Wellington EPBs will have to have new notices issued).

Wellington members: note that WCC will not be reassessing all of Wellington's buildings using the new methodology. For those that are already listed as potentially earthquake prone or earthquake prone, timeframes may change for some and new notices will be issued to replace the current "yellow stickers". There are also transitional requirements, so if you are part way through an engineering assessment make sure your engineer is aware of these.

MBIE has an overview of the new system on their website - see Managing earthquake-prone buildings, in particular, see the "What this means for you" section.

Possible Government Assistance

For the first time the government has acknowledged that BCs face a significant struggle if some owners can't afford to pay for strengthening.

BCCG (Wellington Branch) and Inner City Wellington have been working hard to help politicians and officials understand the need for a "lender of last resort" facility. It was very therefore gratifying to see that Nick Smith said today:
"I am also exploring options for Government assistance in multi-unit complexes where some parties may struggle to raise the finance for their share of strengthening costs. Officials are considering whether we could extend other Government housing guarantee products schemes to assist in these circumstances."

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